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The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma #2560434
08/02/16 02:18 AM
08/02/16 02:18 AM
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JazzyJamMan Offline OP
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The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma; or, the Virtue of Vanilla

Good news! I’ve decided on piano (to be delivered this Thursday), and I know I’m going to be very pleased with it for many years to come. Having played something like 60 pianos across four dealers and several private individuals, I thought it might be useful to document some of my impressions and to present an admittedly unoriginal but confirmed-at-least-in-my-experience thesis (spoiler in my post title) for buyers in my price range.

To start, I was in the market for a used 5'10" - 6'6" grand for $10K - $15K. Obviously, this eliminated all of the high end makes, and from the start, I assumed I’d be getting either a Baldwin, Kawai, or Yamaha. 

Baldwin:
My teacher owns a late 1980s Baldwin R that I really love…it has a responsive action and a good tone, minus a somewhat weak bass. But overall it’s reminiscent of a Steinway, and I certainly would have been happy to find a Baldwin R such as this. I played several Baldwins, including a mid-90s M, a late 90s L, and a mid-70s R. Sadly, none of these instruments satisfied. The tone felt indistinct, and the build quantity of the 90s instruments didn't impress. I nearly fell in love with a somewhat rebuilt early 1960s Baldwin L, but the poor condition of the case and some questionable refinishing dissuaded me.

In the end, I got the impression (both in the instruments I managed to find and in my reading) that Baldwins vary enough from piano to piano that you could spend quite a bit of time before finding a gem. Sadly, it seems to be this fact in part that diminishes their resale value.

Kawai:
I had high hopes for Kawai. I know may people who swear by them. My 52" Kawai US50 upright is still among the best uprights I've played (and I'll be sad to let it go). I played many Kawai grands (K-500, KG, GL, RX, and GX series), but was shocked to discover that not one of them wowed me. I found the action too heavy (read: unresponsive) and the tone dull. This was disappointing given the marvelous engineering that apparently goes into their design (composite actions, etc.). I did like the Shigeru Kawais (the SK-3 was smooth and buttery), but they were way beyond my means.

Ritmuller:
A few new Chinese pianos fell into my price range, and I would have been remiss not to take them for a spin. I was actually pretty impressed with the Ritmuller GH-170R at 5'7". It had a responsive action and, apart from a thin treble, a clear, rich tone. With its German engineering, Renner hammers, and other high-end parts, not to mention the fact that it's new and comes with a warranty, it makes almost all the sense in the world to buy one of these pianos. Why didn't I? Two reasons: first, my piano tech said that he didn't trust these pianos; second, I assumed, I think correctly, that these pianos don't have a good resale value.

Now, I'm probably wrong on both of these counts. I understand that there was a time when Japanese pianos were viewed with the same suspicions and, for all I know, this year's Ritmuller may be a highly sought-after instrument 15 years from now. Still, this wasn't enough to sway me.

Yamaha:
I played maybe 10 different Yamahas in my search, and I always found something to like about these pianos. I never cared much for the U-series uprights (though the one b-series I played had a fantastically responsive action), but the grands were a different beast. To be sure, the lower-end grands had a tinny sound, but their actions appealed to me. The conservatory grands I played (C3s, C5s, and C7s) were immensely satisfying. I loved the feel of the keys, especially the grippy black ones. And the tone was especially clear. I never experience the oft-mentioned harsh tone.

But the piano that really blew me away was the new C2X (and, of course, C3X). If I had $30K to spend, that'd be my first choice, without question. For what it's worth, I liked it more than the SK-3 and more than most of the rebuilt Steinways that approached the C3X in price. Go figure.

Conclusions:
In the end, I found a used C3 in excellent condition that really spoke to me (I'll post in the My New Piano forum when it arrives!).

But I must admit that there's a small part of me that finds this utterly boring: as many others have said, the C3 is like the Toyota Camry of pianos, perhaps more appliance than work of art. Yet, I truly love this piano, and, in my price range, it's extremely hard to beat in terms of performance and resale-value.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I feel the same way about the cars I drive: they're Toyotas, and even if they're a bit vanilla, they're reliable, well-engineered, and hold their value.

And, with my apologies for the long post, that's what I see as the $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma: that if you want to maximize performance and value, it's seems the real question is whether you like the used Kawai or the used Yamaha. At least in this case, I find there's some virtue in being vanilla smile

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Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: JazzyJamMan] #2560450
08/02/16 04:58 AM
08/02/16 04:58 AM
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Enjoy your new piano! I'm not a Yamaha fan but I have played some lovely C2s and C3s which had been prepared brilliantly. If it speaks to you and it feels like it's "the one" then you're very lucky indeed. smile

I agree with your opinions on Kawai, I found that I was disappointed by the ones I tried too.

I'm seriously considering the C2X over a high-end upright myself. Whatever it is that Yamaha have changed, I like very much!

Last edited by Narj; 08/02/16 05:03 AM.
Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: Narj] #2560483
08/02/16 07:12 AM
08/02/16 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Narj
Enjoy your new piano! I'm not a Yamaha fan but I have played some lovely C2s and C3s which had been prepared brilliantly. If it speaks to you and it feels like it's "the one" then you're very lucky indeed. smile

I agree with your opinions on Kawai, I found that I was disappointed by the ones I tried too.

I'm seriously considering the C2X over a high-end upright myself. Whatever it is that Yamaha have changed, I like very much!

If I had a budget in the OP's range I probably would have made a similar choice. Because we were able to go a bit higher than that a new C2X was possible. As far as the changes Yamaha has made, there was a great article in the Piano Buyer a few years ago that described some of the refinements to the CX series.

P.S. Since purchasing our C2X several years ago, I have had the chance to play a half dozen or so higher-end instruments, most costing double or more than the C2X. None of them blew me away, except for the Bosendorfer smile


Yamaha C2X | Yamaha M500-F
Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
Curriculum: Faber Developing Artist (Book 3)
Current: German Dance in D Major (Haydn) (OF); Melody (Schumann) (OF)
Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: JazzyJamMan] #2560698
08/02/16 11:02 PM
08/02/16 11:02 PM
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Jazzy, C3's are nice pianos and offer expressive performance for nearly all styles. Congrats & Enjoy!


"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams
Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: Dave B] #2560904
08/04/16 01:28 AM
08/04/16 01:28 AM
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Thanks, Dave B and Narj! I'm very excited. It arrives tomorrow!

Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: BrianDX] #2560905
08/04/16 01:29 AM
08/04/16 01:29 AM
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BrianDX, I'm completely with you. The C2X I played was more impressive the most of the "high end" makes I auditioned.

Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: JazzyJamMan] #2560914
08/04/16 03:09 AM
08/04/16 03:09 AM
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Your story sounds exactly like mine! I have a 1998 C3 that I bought used which was a better value than most of the pianos I tried within that price range. Congratulations on your purchase!


Yamaha C3, Yamaha Avant Grand N1 (sold), Steingraeber 170 (family's)
Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: JazzyJamMan] #2560971
08/04/16 09:59 AM
08/04/16 09:59 AM
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And I'm yet another person who has nearly the same story as the OP! After months of shopping, I just bought a 2000 Yamaha C2. I had also originally anticipated spending in the range of 10-15K, but in the end I had to stretch a little over that range when I found an instrument that stood out as "my" piano (and it is a really pristine "like new" instrument to boot!). I looked at some G3/C3s too, but I liked this C2 better than any of the ones that size that I tried, which was fortunate as the relatively small size of our house/living room makes the smaller piano a better fit.

I too went in with high expectations for Kawai, and tried a lot of them, but I was similarly disappointed. I have a Kawai CA93 high-end digital which I love that I am keeping.

Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: JazzyJamMan] #2560988
08/04/16 11:19 AM
08/04/16 11:19 AM
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JJM, best wishes with your Yamaha! Play it until the wheels fall off!

grin

Last year I happened upon a beautifully maintained 37 year old Yamaha C7D that in my opinion, sounded and played better than a large number of higher tier pianos, including every Mason & Hamlin I came across from models A to BB. I found the actions of these pianos to be hard to play and their tones dull.

Sacrilege!! some might scream, as M&H is an almighty tier 1 piano, right? Look, it says so right in that piano buyer book, so its got to be the truth! Rubbish. Balderdash. The fact that M&H has such a rating was meaningless to me, because I found what I liked, not in a M&H, but in that old Yamaha instead. And with $1k worth of regulation, hammer filing and voicing later, it was even better! Total cost: $16,000 usd. And the M&H's? Used for a comparable size piano (the Yamaha C7D is 7'-4") couldn't compare, and just forget about new.

It just goes to show you that money can't buy everything, or even what it's supposed to! And in my case, less money spent proved to be much more rewarding than spending more. Should I have taken someone elses word and spent more money just to be able to say that a "tier 1" piano was gracing my living room instead of a nowhere-near-tier Yamaha? Meh. Actual personal experience often beats parroted hype most every time.

Enjoy your C3, I hope it provides you with many years of enjoyment!

Regards,
Andy


1979 Yamaha C7D - Yamaha P115 - Korg MicroKORG synth. - Korg Kaossilator Pro synth.
Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: JazzyJamMan] #2561014
08/04/16 01:10 PM
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PLEASE guys.. let's not get into a discussion of 'my piano is better than your piano!' or 'my piano brand is better than your X brand'.

We each own what fits our particular needs and pocketbook, matching the tone and touch that we appreciate. Otherwise, everyone would own a Yamaha..or a Steinway.. or an M & H. ... and brands other than ours would sit on the dealer floor. Just because we don't individually appreciate one of the piano choices, doesn't mean it is not the right piano for someone else... or that it was a bad choice.

ALL of us can say about some brand 'I've never met an XXXX that I liked'. Well, so be it.. that is why you didn't buy one ....and why others do.




Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: DrewBone] #2561030
08/04/16 02:24 PM
08/04/16 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by DrewBone
JJM, best wishes with your Yamaha! Play it until the wheels fall off!

grin

Last year I happened upon a beautifully maintained 37 year old Yamaha C7D that in my opinion, sounded and played better than a large number of higher tier pianos, including every Mason & Hamlin I came across from models A to BB. I found the actions of these pianos to be hard to play and their tones dull.

Sacrilege!! some might scream, as M&H is an almighty tier 1 piano, right? Look, it says so right in that piano buyer book, so its got to be the truth! Rubbish. Balderdash. The fact that M&H has such a rating was meaningless to me, because I found what I liked, not in a M&H, but in that old Yamaha instead. And with $1k worth of regulation, hammer filing and voicing later, it was even better! Total cost: $16,000 usd. And the M&H's? Used for a comparable size piano (the Yamaha C7D is 7'-4") couldn't compare, and just forget about new.

It just goes to show you that money can't buy everything, or even what it's supposed to! And in my case, less money spent proved to be much more rewarding than spending more. Should I have taken someone elses word and spent more money just to be able to say that a "tier 1" piano was gracing my living room instead of a nowhere-near-tier Yamaha? Meh. Actual personal experience often beats parroted hype most every time.

Enjoy your C3, I hope it provides you with many years of enjoyment!
M&H is not tier 1. It's tier 2 or 3 depending on whether one wants to count the NY Steinway rating as a separate tier. The top of the line Yamahas are presently in the same tier as M&H and the next level Yamahas are two tiers below. Finally, as Fine clearly states, the most recent rankings are more based on market position, i.e. cost, than they were 5 or 10 or 20 years ago.

I think it's fine to prefer Yamaha to a M&H since preferences in touch and tone are highly personal. But I also think your post comes across as at least least a little bashing towards the Piano Buyer. And I think that's unfortunate.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 08/04/16 02:33 PM.
Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: JazzyJamMan] #2561036
08/04/16 02:29 PM
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Bashing the piano buyer? I think not as the buyer also bought a Yamaha. The bashing is for those that did not buy a Yamaha. ... inferring that not to be a Yamaha owner is a person who just buys into 'parroted hype'. MEH!

Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: dogperson] #2561042
08/04/16 02:36 PM
08/04/16 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Bashing the piano buyer? I think not as the buyer also bought a Yamaha. The bashing is for those that did not buy a Yamaha. ... inferring that not to be a Yamaha owner is a person who just buys into 'parroted hype'. MEH!
The post was critical of both the PB and those who buy pianos rated higher than Yamaha.

Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: JazzyJamMan] #2561048
08/04/16 03:21 PM
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Quote
I was actually pretty impressed with the Ritmuller GH-170R at 5'7". It had a responsive action and, apart from a thin treble, a clear, rich tone. With its German engineering, Renner hammers, and other high-end parts, not to mention the fact that it's new and comes with a warranty, it makes almost all the sense in the world to buy one of these pianos. Why didn't I? Two reasons: first, my piano tech said that he didn't trust these pianos; second, I assumed, I think correctly, that these pianos don't have a good resale value.


1] I would listen to your tech if has personal experience with these pianos.

If not, he is giving you unqualified experience.
Which from my experience makes him somewhat disqualified in many other areas as well.
"Talk is cheap"... cry Plus present no value to anyone.

Remember, it's always easy to recommend 'for' or 'against' something you don't know.
For example I recommend 'against' visiting Belgium.
Never been there... grin

2] Resale value of any piano depends on:

a] the price you paid when new, the diffeence can be considerable
b] the quality of sound and general condition of a piano
[would you pay a high price for a mediocre sounding piano from premium tier?]
c] market penetration and name recognition.

It's not an exact science. Besides I don't know of any one new Ritmuller having come up for sale.

People seem to like them way too much to throw them on the block any time soon.

Best advice: Follow your own heart!

Norbert smile

Last edited by Norbert; 08/04/16 09:52 PM.

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Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: JazzyJamMan] #2561053
08/04/16 03:50 PM
08/04/16 03:50 PM
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I wanted to give a Ritmuller a try, especially the 5'7" GH170R model...but there was only one Ritmuller dealer that I could find in the greater D.C. area, and that dealer only had one Ritmuller in their showroom -- a little baby grand (I suppose it was the GH148R). It sounded like what you would expect a piano that small to sound like...which is not what I was looking for (for that matter, at one of my stops I tried a new Steinways S and that wasn't of interest to me either).

Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: DrewBone] #2561413
08/06/16 10:06 AM
08/06/16 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by DrewBone

It just goes to show you that money can't buy everything, or even what it's supposed to!


I suppose this would apply equally to the Yamaha or the Ritmuller!

(By the way, I went back to see the photos of your C7, DrewBone, and what an instrument!)

...And a quick note to Michiyo-Fir and scriabinfanatic, thanks for sharing your sympathetic experiences with the Yamahas smile

Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: pianoloverus] #2561429
08/06/16 12:09 PM
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pianoloverus, whatever I write here in this forum and elsewhere is my opinion, which everyone here is entitled to, to voice freely without fear of reprisal. And those opinions that I share here have been gleaned not from a book or other outside entity, but from many many years of my own personal experiences. The fact that my opinion of a certain piano doesn't coincide with or agree with that of any other individual, whether they write books about pianos or not, or whether they sell or even rebuild them, is entirely inconsequential. I didn't purchase my Yamaha C7D piano because of what any piano buying book or any other individual on the face of the planet had to say about pianos (outside of the PTG member who inspected it), I based my purchase soley on my own personal experiences and likes.

There have been a great many things that I've experienced and been subjected to during my lifetime that were reportedly "top tier," yet my own personal experiences with them proved otherwise, from computers to bicycles to shoes to automobiles to pens and everything inbetween. What was the result? Wasted money and anger. As such, to spare myself from the recurrence of such unpleasantries I like to find things out for myself instead of simply relying on the likes of big names, known names, recognizable names...I'm not a sheep who can simply be led off a cliff, but a fairly savy individual who is at times skeptical, and that skepticism has saved my tail on more than one occasion.

Anyway, I tried the M&H pianos, and even though I have no issues affording one, you couldn't get me to purchase one at any price because I just didn't like them. I'm not slamming them as being a poor grade of piano nor am I suggesting anyone stay away from them. They may be great for alot of people, but I personally just don't like them - now everybody get over it already.

Some here may need the guidance of a book when purchasing a piano, but as far as myself, after having played the piano now for 51 going on 52 years, I do believe that I am old enough and experienced enough to know what I like, and I've surely earned the right to speak freely of my choices and the reasoning behind them without having to be accused of "bashing" - which in my eyes is nothing but a rather childish and emotional response to what amounts to a simple matter of a difference of opinion.

You and everyone else here are certainly entitled to your opinions, which are yours alone and which I'm sure you feel you have every right to have without question. Now, will you please allow me mine without your personal critique on a subjective and often times personal topic such as piano ratings? I'd be most greatful if you would, thanks.

grin

Regards,
Andy


1979 Yamaha C7D - Yamaha P115 - Korg MicroKORG synth. - Korg Kaossilator Pro synth.
Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: JazzyJamMan] #2561430
08/06/16 12:11 PM
08/06/16 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by JazzyJamMan
...

(By the way, I went back to see the photos of your C7, DrewBone, and what an instrument!)

...


Thanks Jazzy. It's not a CFX, but it's still a wonderful instrument wink

Regards,
Andy


1979 Yamaha C7D - Yamaha P115 - Korg MicroKORG synth. - Korg Kaossilator Pro synth.
Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: JazzyJamMan] #2561436
08/06/16 12:47 PM
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Hi Andy:
We all have our personal opinions of pianos... and view the tone and touch very personally... and make decisions based on that. There are piano brands I have played that I have NEVER liked, in spite of a tier rating... So be it, they are right for someone else. You do not like the touch of M & H, fine. To say you have never found M & H action to work for you would have been great... But your post seems to imply that those that choose M & H are shallow parrots

I don't think you realize that there are those of us that find this section of your post irritating:

It just goes to show you that money can't buy everything, [i] or even what it's supposed to! And in my case, less money spent proved to be much more rewarding than spending more. Should I have taken someone elses word and spent more money just to be able to say that a "tier 1" piano was gracing my living room instead of a nowhere-near-tier Yamaha? Meh. Actual personal experience often beats parroted hype most every time.[/i]

I bought a M & H vintage because it was the first piano I have played that I wanted to hug... and thought 'oh my, I will need to play better to live up to this piano'. Did I buy it because of any Tier rating? No. Did I buy it 'based on parroted hype? NO. Did I buy it because of the name on the fallboard? No. Did I buy it as a status symbol? Heavens no... there is nothing I own that anyone would consider a status symbol.

I bought it because it was the perfect piano in my price range with the tone and touch I wanted. To imply that those that make choices different from yours are looking at status-type of criteria or parroted hype in making a decision is not fair.

Last edited by dogperson; 08/06/16 01:15 PM.
Re: The $10K-$15K Grand Piano Buyer’s Dilemma [Re: DrewBone] #2561440
08/06/16 01:28 PM
08/06/16 01:28 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 25,332
New York City
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
pianoloverus  Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 25,332
New York City
Originally Posted by DrewBone
pianoloverus, whatever I write here in this forum and elsewhere is my opinion, which everyone here is entitled to, to voice freely without fear of reprisal. And those opinions that I share here have been gleaned not from a book or other outside entity, but from many many years of my own personal experiences. The fact that my opinion of a certain piano doesn't coincide with or agree with that of any other individual, whether they write books about pianos or not, or whether they sell or even rebuild them, is entirely inconsequential. I didn't purchase my Yamaha C7D piano because of what any piano buying book or any other individual on the face of the planet had to say about pianos (outside of the PTG member who inspected it), I based my purchase soley on my own personal experiences and likes.

There have been a great many things that I've experienced and been subjected to during my lifetime that were reportedly "top tier," yet my own personal experiences with them proved otherwise, from computers to bicycles to shoes to automobiles to pens and everything inbetween. What was the result? Wasted money and anger. As such, to spare myself from the recurrence of such unpleasantries I like to find things out for myself instead of simply relying on the likes of big names, known names, recognizable names...I'm not a sheep who can simply be led off a cliff, but a fairly savy individual who is at times skeptical, and that skepticism has saved my tail on more than one occasion.

Anyway, I tried the M&H pianos, and even though I have no issues affording one, you couldn't get me to purchase one at any price because I just didn't like them. I'm not slamming them as being a poor grade of piano nor am I suggesting anyone stay away from them. They may be great for alot of people, but I personally just don't like them - now everybody get over it already.

Some here may need the guidance of a book when purchasing a piano, but as far as myself, after having played the piano now for 51 going on 52 years, I do believe that I am old enough and experienced enough to know what I like, and I've surely earned the right to speak freely of my choices and the reasoning behind them without having to be accused of "bashing" - which in my eyes is nothing but a rather childish and emotional response to what amounts to a simple matter of a difference of opinion.

You and everyone else here are certainly entitled to your opinions, which are yours alone and which I'm sure you feel you have every right to have without question. Now, will you please allow me mine without your personal critique on a subjective and often times personal topic such as piano ratings? I'd be most greatful if you would, thanks.

grin

Regards,
Andy
I have no issues with your post but I think you should realize that Fine's Piano Buyer is so widely read that when someone refers to a Tier 1 piano it's almost universally assumed to be Tier 1 as it appears in Fine's ranking list.

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